Action for Dental Health Act 2014 (H.R. 4395)
The American Dental Association (ADA) urges you to cosponsor the “Action for Dental Health Act 2014 (H.R. 4395), introduced by Representative Robin Kelly (IL-2nd).
What this Bill Funds
This bill funds two federal grant programs. The first would provide $10 million annually to qualified state and local organizations offering free dental services for underserved populations. The second program would provide $10 million annually to organizations implementing Action for Dental Health initiatives that reduce the barriers to care. Both grants are limited to five fiscal years after enactment.
The first grant would help fund programs where dentists can directly provide care to those who are suffering from lack of dental care today. Programs like Give Kids A Smile® and Missions of Mercy provide important platforms for dentists to deliver care directly to those in need.
- Each year, approximately 450,000 children benefit from 1,500 Give Kids A Smile events nationwide. Missions of Mercy events across America have served more than 100,000 patients, providing nearly $50 million in free services since 2000.
- These programs, along with the free and discounted care that individual dentists provide every day, add up to an estimated $2.6 billion per year.
The second grant would fund “Action for Dental Health” initiatives designed to deliver care now to people already suffering with dental disease, strengthen and expand the public/private safety net, and bring dental health education and disease prevention into underserved communities.
- Reduce the number of people who visit the emergency room for a dental condition by referring them to community health centers or private dental practices, where they can receive proper dental care.1
- Expand access to care for the vulnerable elderly in nursing homes.2
- Help provide more care to people by having private-practice dentists contract with Federally Qualified Health Centers. This strategy will help alleviate health center dental backlogs, and get patients speedier oral health care. It can also increase access to dental specialty services.
- Fight for increased funding and simplified administration under Medicaid.3
- Ensure more Americans have access to fluoridated drinking water.4
- Increase the number of Community Dental Health Coordinators.5
- Strengthen collaborations with other health professionals and organizations.6
Why is this legislation necessary?
- H.R. 4395 supports expansion of ongoing programs that make it feasible for many more private sector dentists to care for the underserved. Over one-third of the U.S. population is at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and yet only about 3 percent of dentists practice in Federally Qualified Health Centers. Private sector dentists comprise over 90 percent of the profession.
- H.R. 4395 supports proven, cost-effective measures:
- Emergency department (ED) visits for dental problems cost nearly $3 billion during the period from 2008 through 2010, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Dental Association (April 2014, Vol. 145:4, pp. 331-337). The study noted that dental ED care costs more than regular care by oral health professionals. Also, most ED visits only provide patients with pain medication and don't treat the underlying problem.
- Fluoride in drinking water yields $38 in savings for $1 invested; CDHCs provide prevention and outreach; nursing home residents unable to travel receive care where they live; FQHCs are offered a less costly alternative to more “bricks and mortar.”
The American Dental Association urges you to cosponsor the “Action for Dental Health Act 2014” (H.R. 4395).
Letters from Congress
Download a letter about the Action for Dental Health Act of 2014 from congresswoman Robin Kelly.
Jennifer Fisher, Congressional Lobbyist
American Dental Association; firstname.lastname@example.org; 202.789.5160
1According to the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, the number of dental ER visits in the U.S. increased from 1.1 million in 2000 to 2.1 million in 2010. A separate study shows that in 2009, dental caries (the disease that causes cavities) and abscesses alone – almost entirely preventable conditions – accounted for nearly 80 percent of dental-related ER visits.
2Approximately 1.3 million nursing home residents face the greatest barriers to accessing dental care of any population group. Federal law requires nursing home facilities to provide dental care to residents, including routine and emergency care. But delivering dental care to these patients has been problematic. Now, dentists across the country are adopting nursing homes in their communities using the existing public health safety net. It’s an immediate and affordable solution for nursing home residents.
3This proven solution has dramatically improved access to care in some states. A combination of fee increases and administrative reforms in Connecticut’s Medicaid program in 2008 increased the number of participating dentists from fewer than 200 to more than 1,200. As a result, nearly 70 percent of enrolled children had at least one dental visit per year, a rate higher than that for privately insured children and dramatically higher than the 15 percent who saw a dentist prior to the state’s Medicaid reforms. But most Medicaid programs remain inadequate for children, while comprehensive coverage for adults is all but nonexistent in most states. Expanding Medicaid coverage and improving the system means more dentists providing more care to more people in need.
4Endorsed by U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD (PDF) as “one of the most effective choices communities can make to prevent health problems while actually improving the oral health of their citizens,” community water fluoridation programs benefit everyone, especially those without access to regular dental care. For most cities, every $1 invested in water fluoridation yields $38 savings in dental treatment costs. That’s why the ADA and state dental associations are working with state and local governments to extend the proven health benefits of community water fluoridation to the greatest possible number of people.
5CDHCs teach people about the importance of good dental hygiene, provide preventive services such as dental sealants and connect people with dentists who will provide comprehensive treatment. And, since CDHCs are often members of the communities they are serving, they are more likely to understand the unique challenges facing the people they are helping.
6Better collaboration among dental and medical professionals can be a means to ensure all Americans understand their dental health is a crucial part of their overall health. The dental health of a pregnant woman or a mother can affect the health of the baby. Maintaining good oral hygiene is one element to maintaining optimal overall health for people living with such conditions as diabetes or HIV. With minimal training, physicians, nurses, educators and others can dramatically increase the number of patients and caregivers who receive basic dental health education. These professionals also can be trained to recognize conditions needing diagnosis and possible treatment by a dentist.